Bernhard Henri-Levy

Muddy Waters Are No Laughing Matter

It’s interesting to see where Bernhard Henri-Levy is headed:

On Jeremy Corbyn:

‘He is that “pilgrim of peace” shown in shocking videos, dug up by the British press this summer, meditating at gravesites in Tunis, at least one of which being that of an organizer of the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

He is that easy-going politician who has welcomed as a major donor to his campaign the same Ibrahim Hamami who, after years as a columnist for Hamas’ official newspaper, became an advocate for the knifing of Jews in Israel.’

Andrew Sullivan had a decent piece on Corbyn’s rise through the Labor party in Britain.

It’d be nice if the satirical impulse currently hovering over the safe targets (Christians, corporations, white men) were unleashed upon religious restrictions as found in Islam, the excesses of feminism, or say, a certain shabby, itinerant socialist preacher wandering the global countryside in search of his oppressed People.

It’d be even nicer if a lot of people with relatively [little] meaning in their lives weren’t looking to cartoons, comics and children’s books to be the sole source of meaning.  Or at least, that many ‘thought-leaders’ didn’t end up policing the cartoons, comics and children’s books they once enjoyed and now claim to be sacred and meaningful.

It seems there are taboos, here.

Converting important information channels into ideological echo-chambers is unsurprising given human nature (Twitter), I suppose, but converting laughter into ceaseless ‘explanation,’ artists into ‘celebrities’ and art blurbs into entire careers is a deeper offense.

How do you avoid getting sucked under muddy waters?:

One way is to go in the direction of nihilism, or the freely associative, and surrealistic:

That, too, has its dangers.

Perhaps we simply aren’t ready for Henri-Levy’s more libertine, radical, French liberalism, which he displayed by coming over in the spirit of Tocqueville and pissing on the sides of our highways.   Why, he even helped Obama and Hillary Clinton pursue a course of action in Libya.

As previously posted:

-Daniel Dennett: ‘Postmodernism And Truth’

Repost-‘Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?’

Land Art Links Along A With A Quite Modernist W.S. Merwin Poem

William Logan At The New Criterion: ‘Pound’s Metro’…Monday Poem: ‘A Pact’ By Ezra Pound

More On Nietzsche’s influence-Part of Bryan Magee’s series:

Nietzsche directed his thought against Christian morality, secular morality (Kantian and utilitarian), was quite anti-democratic, and anti-Socratic Greek (the beginning of the end).

Quote found here at friesian.com (recovering Kantian idealism and moving in a libertarian direction):

‘Oddly enough, it is the intellctual snobbery and elitism of many of the literati that politically correct egalitarianism appeals to; their partiality to literary Marxism is based not on its economic theory but on its hostility to business and the middle class. The character of this anti-bourgeois sentiment therefore has more in common with its origin in aristocratic disdain for the lower orders than with egalitarianism.’

Related: From Darwinian Conservatism: Nietzsche-Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?

A Few Thoughts On The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy Entry: Nietzsche’s Moral And Political Philosophy..A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche Connection

Dinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy

Youtube-‘Week 2 Leo Strauss-The Three Waves Of Modernity’..From The Selected Writings By And About George Anastaplo: ‘Reason and Revelation: On Leo Strauss’

The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…Looking to supplant religion as moral source for the laws: From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.…

European Anti-Semitism, Marxism, Immigration And Bad Ideas

Via Mick Hartley.

Oliver Kamm:

‘Why would the leader of a mainstream political party declare that he is opposed to antisemitism? The answer, in the case of Jeremy Corbyn, is that otherwise it would be impossible to tell.’

Of course, NPR will tend to see ‘anti-semitism’ as a ‘far-right’ phenomenon and overlook how complicit naive idealism and authoritarian collectivisism can be in exacerbating the problem.

Let’s not forget that greasing many a cog, found grinding within many a big-city American political machine (exiquisitely corrupt), can be found similar activism.

My two cents:  Fashioning the same, tired ideas into a political platform and leading many of the same ‘People’ ritualistically against the world that is (the oppressor’s world), misunderstands much of human nature and much of what is politically possible.

Merely subjecting one’s Self to the continually fresh challenges and foibles of political leadership doesn’t necessarily legitimate bad ideas.

Labeling all individuals as either ‘racist’ or not, ‘misogynist’ or not, ‘Islamophobic’ or not, is serious mislabeling.

This can expose, sooner or later, genuine ‘minorities’ (definitional) living in plain sight to many of the abuses and legitimate fears minorities tend to face pretty much all the time and in all places.

The divisions within the human heart towards the known, familiar and comfortable tend to re-assert themselves, sooner or later.

Hopefully, this occurs magnanimously and within families, as part of institutional best practices and under laws which leave individuals free to practice charity, prudence and reasonable judgment where possible.  A solid friendship can weather much more than yet another political crusade.

The more institutions and laws with power to govern your family become governed by radicals and utopians, the weaker those institutions and more badly written the laws tend to become.  Unsurprisingly, this bodes ill for many families.

How is ‘Europe’ going to handle these problems?:

Update And Repost: From Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’

Are we back to a clash of civilizations…or are there are other options: From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s Work

From The OC Jewish Experience: ‘UC Irvine Muslim Student Union Suspended’ …

Thank You Bernard Henri-Levy: The End Of Victimhood & Identity Politics

Tom Wolfe wrote about the Black Panthers showing up at Leonard Bernstein’s place: Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic: That Party At Lenny’s.

Alberto Nisman, The ‘Global Community’ & Anti-Semitism in Europe-Some Links & Thoughts

Thank You Bernard Henri-Levy: The End Of Victimhood & Identity Politics

I’m generally skeptical of multiculturalism because it can undermine the ‘melting pot’ approach to life and immigration here in the United States.  When multiculturalism becomes an entrenched governing philosophy, it eats away at the best assimilator of immigrants we have:  A strong economy.  After all, economic opportunity and political liberty are two of America’s strongest draws, and two of our freedoms most worth preserving, intimately connected as they are.  Working alongside someone in an office can at least breed familiarity, if not fellow-feeling and friendship.

It often takes a couple of generations for new arrivals to assimilate into American culture, and I don’t believe it’s easy.  There can be active discrimination, to be sure.  There are certain discriminatory practices I even support prohibiting to achieve equality under the law.

Yet, multiculturalism often balkanizes groups under its banner.  It rewards racial and group identity politics, and it can erode equality under the law and many Americans’ sense of fairness as a nation of laws.  Political activism, politics, and the treasury too easily become the prizes for these competing groups to get a ‘piece of the pie.’  Laws can be used as levers to reward friends and punish enemies as a political system of patronage develops, much as it has in our big-city machine politics.  It can get ugly.

So, dear reader, I was greatly comforted when I read Bernhard Henri-Levy before the 2008 election:

“And one of the reasons I am so much in favor of [Senator Barack] Obama is that his election might be, will be—because I think he will be elected—a real end to this tide of competition of victimhood, and especially on the specific ground of the two communities, Jews and African Americans, who were so close in the 1960s”

…”The Obama election would reconstitute the grand alliance.”

Hail the grand alliance!

After some digging, I found out this black/jewish alliance was strong indeed.   Here are further examples from my extensive research. From The Kentucky Fried Movie, Cleopatra Schwartz (NSFW).

She was six feet of black dynamite.  He was a short Hasidic Jew:

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Tom Wolfe wrote about the Black Panthers showing up at Leonard Bernstein’s place: Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic: That Party At Lenny’s.

I’d venture to say that many Americans share in a definition of individual liberty more linked up with organized religion (more so in the past) along with our traditions, institutions, clubs and civic organizations.  Most of these organizations allow us to choose for ourselves the obligations we have to our fellow citizens outside of government and away from enforced, top down, collectivist political philosophies.

Perhaps we simply aren’t ready for Henri-Levy’s more libertine, radical, French liberalism, which he displayed by coming over in the spirit of Tocqueville and pissing on the sides of our highways.   Why, he even helped Obama and Hillary Clinton pursue a course of action in Libya.

It’s good to know victim-hood and identity politics are in the rear-view mirror.

Hail the grand alliance!

From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’

Full piece here.

This seems worthy of note, given the current American foreign policy regime:

‘And yet Libya—so far the most aggressive humanitarian intervention of the 21st century—depended not on any broad public movement nor any urgent security threat. There was instead a chain of private conversations: Hillary Clinton moving Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy moving Dmitri Medvedev, and at the chain’s inception this romantic propagandist, Bernard-Henri Lévy. “I think this war was probably launched by two statesmen,” Lévy told me. “Hillary Clinton and Sarkozy. More modestly, me.”*

and:

“No, no, no, no,” Lévy says. “My country, our country, for the first time since the American Revolution, has come to a foreign country to help a revolution, to help a war of liberation, and this is good, this is beautiful, this is noble …”

and:

“Pascal Bruckner, another French philosopher and often an ally of Lévy’s, notes that this is Lévy’s natural mode. “Elections, discussions with the unions, economic problems—all these problems do not interest him,” he says. What Lévy has instead is “a will to turn politics into an epic, and to abandon everything that is prosaic.”

Well, I’ve heard the approach unaffectionately termed “neo-neo-colonialism.”  Is it working?

Is victory defined as freedom from the injustices of the tyrant?  Was this the “wise” course as opposed to the invasion of Iraq (which is flaring into sectarian violence after withdrawal)…by properly distancing ourselves and by respecting the will of  the Libyan people (or leaving them to their mess and alligning with Europe)?  Or is that just because some folks agree with the principles and the less violent outcome is a bonus?

Are the architects of any war responsible for those outcomes?

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Here’s a Leo Strauss quote on Edmund Burke posted earlier.  It’s a strange place to find ourselves with a Frenchman (of the Left) potentially at the helm of our foreign policy:

“What ever might have to be said about the propriety of Burke’s usage, it is here sufficient to note that, in judging the political leaders whom he opposed in the two most important actions of his life, he [sic Burke] traced their lack of prudence less to passion than to the intrusion of the spirit of theory into the field of politics.”

Addition:  Of course, if he is actually at the helm of our foreign policy…

Related On This Site:…Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And OthersFrom The New Yorker: ‘How Qaddafi Lost Libya’

From Foreign Affairs: ‘The Problem With Obama’s Decision To Leave Iraq’Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest Online: ‘Obama’s War’

Yes, Edmund Burke opposed the French Revolution: Sunday Quotation: Edmund Burke On The French Revolution

Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’

Full post here.

Henri-Levy has been on the ground working with the Libyans for some time, during a relatively dangerous time.  Agree with him or not, he’s placed himself at risk and helped others to understand some of what could be at stake for themselves and the West in Libya (The New York Observer has a review of his recent book “Left In Dark Times: A Stand Against The New Barbarism”).   He frames the murder and parading of Gadhafi’s corpse thusly:

‘Either this collective crime will be, like the beheading of the last king of France in Albert Camus’s account, the founding act of the coming era, which would be a terrible sign. Or it will be the swan song of a barbarous age, the end of the Libyan night, the death rattle of Gaddafi’s system, which, before expiring, must turn against its founder and inject him with his own venom, making way for a new era that will fulfill the promises of the Arab Spring.’

As I write, the latter is my ardent wish. More than that, it is my conviction’

There is a bit of the romantic, war-correspondent at work here, and a more sober eye could be cast upon American interests (and how far can we really trust a Frenchman with those?).  If we look at it with a Burkean lens, that tradition is still carrying the flame of a more radical, Rousseauian, highly individualized, post-Enlightenment liberty and its dangers.  Henri-Levy is part of a tradition that defines liberty much more broadly than many Americans are comfortable with and which poses great risk to the efficacy of our institutions and our freedoms.  He has stood up against anti-semitism and anti-Americanism and other dangerous strains of the French and European Left, but…still.

We may come to reap the benefits of closer cooperation with Britain and France in protecting their interests, and helping them in their backyard, spreading some of the anti-Western sentiment and reasonable suspicion around that America has brought upon itself after Iraq and post 09/11.  We also may bind ourselves to decisions and decision-making that improperly define our responsibilities that can lead to greater conflict in seen and unforeseen ways.  It is a confusing time.

I’m skeptical it hasn’t been a mistake to put these ideas at the center of American foreign policy, just as I think it would be a mistake to exclude them entirely and exclude what many people may have learned on the ground in times of crisis as either intellectuals, war-correspondents, observers, aid-workers and other defenders and definers of liberty, especially in the Arab world right now.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Addition: One of the major policy goals of the current administration seems to be siding with it sees as the interests of the people of the Middle-East, not necessarily the autocrats and dictators, and this Wilsonian direction as the path toward moral legitimacy.

Another addition: Just how far Left is this administration anyways?

Related On This Site: Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others……Paul Berman At The New Republic: ‘From September 11 to the Arab Spring: Do Ideas Matter?’

For anyone, but especially Leftists and recovering Leftists, it takes moral courage to stand up to the messianism, Islamic moral absolutism, and dark theocratic tendencies of the Middle East…liberty is key as well as moral responsibility to think in terms of the legitimacy of rule here at home: …From Beautiful Horizons: ‘Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan at the 92nd Street Y’Via YouTube: ‘Christopher Hitchens Vs. Ahmed Younis On CNN (2005)’From Michael Totten: ‘An Interview With Christopher Hitchens’

Sunday Quotation: Edmund Burke On The French Revolution..

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Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others

Full video here. (52.52 min long, originally aired 04/04/11)

Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb, and others discuss the Libya intervention.  Henri-Levy defends the humanitarian approach (appealing to the ‘creeds’ of France, America and Britain).  The video gets interesting when Gelb gets involved at about minute 14:00, and wonders why the U.S. is stuck carrying most of the water, with so many downside risks (weak rebel forces, a still well-armed Gadhafi, a hypocritical and weak Arab league, high potential for deeper and deeper involvement).

Even if you are grateful for a change in U.S. foreign policy, and think like most people the humanitarian approach has worthy objectives (hammered from past atrocities and experiences on the ground in other countries, towards global governance) we are still using our political and military resources (people, maybe your friend or neighbor) and potentially subsuming our sovereignty to a framework for very questionable returns, and with so many risks.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.  Here’s a quote from a previous post:

‘According to my observations (for which I claim nothing by that they are all I have to go by) inaction is better than wrong action or premature right action, and effective right action can only follow right thinking. “If a great change is to take place,” said Edmund Burke, in his last words on the French Revolution, “the minds of men will be fitted to it.”‘

Addition:  As a reader points out, if you make the Gadhafi/Saddam Hussein comparison, there is general agreement on how tyrannical, and dangerous, both leaders were/have been, but also general [sic] agreement that the injustices each visited upon their own citizens partially led to U.S. involvement:

How are the two most recent president’s definitions of freedom (Bush’s human freedom…Obama’s arc of history…) getting crafted into foreign policy?  Any president will have to deal with the bureaucratic and institutional structures in place.

Another Addition:  Perhaps it’s worth noting the backdrop of French colonialism, Northern Africa, and the French intellectual Left (Henri-Levy, Derrida, Camus to some extent). Henri-Levy is essentially asking for more Western involvement (including the use of military force) because presumably, the Arabs can’t do it for themselves (neo-neo colonialism?).  So, if Henri-Levy did get Sarkozy’s ear on this, and Obama waited on the French to form some semblance of political consensus for action…was it worth the wait?  What American interests are at stake?

Related On This Site:  Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest Online: ‘Obama’s War’From The WSJ: “Allies Rally To Stop Gadhafi”From March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And PakistanFrom CSIS: ‘Turmoil In The Middle-East’From The New Yorker: ‘How Qaddafi Lost Libya’A Few Thoughts On Watching Operations In Libya

From Guernica: Bernard Henri Levy Interview On Anti-Semitism And Fascism

Full post and brief written interview here.

Henri-Levy has done some pretty deep thinking, mostly within leftist intellectual traditions, but also seems to attempt to question the core ideas of those traditions:

“I hate competition of victimhood. But I also hate the idea of a big, huge, and empty concept of suffering…”

A deep moral and (maturing political) realist who’s also anti-religious (typically left, at least he doesn’t advocate enforcement of Godlessness).

I agree that there’s danger in identity-victimhood politics.  It can cultivate many vices under its loftier idealism.  Yet, for my part, I believe that an intellectually honest, reasonable conservative (conservare) position already acknowledges much of this danger:

“You had fascism in Japan. You had fascism in Europe. You had fascism in people like Lindberg in America. You had fascism in Latin America and in the Arab world.”

Well…yes.   It doesn’t go away, and you can likely make a deep metaphysical theories about how it is a part of each of us and extend them around the globe with moral courage as Henri-Levy has done.   However, I don’t think the conservative position need devolve into caricatured support of fascist tendencies.  I can easily see how identity-politics might inflame fascist tendencies (if you accept Henrei-Levy’s defintion of fascism.

And…Lindberg?

Which brings me to the next point: 

“And one of the reasons I am so much in favor of [Senator Barack] Obama is that his election might be, will be—because I think he will be elected—a real end to this tide of competition of victimhood, and especially on the specific ground of the two communities, Jews and African Americans, who were so close in the 1960s”

…”The Obama election would reconstitute the grand alliance.”

What is he smoking?  The grand alliance?  No wonder his book American Vertigo seemed so tone-deaf when dealing with its potential subject:  America.   Even the American left found it lacking.

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I appreciate the support that some in the French republic extended to African Americans (jazz musicians, writers, James Baldwin…for example) who were cast beneath our moral concern, and held there, sadly, by even the laws.  There are hardly words for such injustice, yet I see no easy recourse from it.     

In fact, if I were one of the millions of relatively poor and marginalized Muslims on the outsides of Paris, languishing with little hope of a future, my fascist tendencies (expressed within or without the Koran) would lIkely be bubbling up.  And while the depths of moral courage, wisdom and insight an Henri-Levy provided (if I got the chance to read him) might spur me on to independent thought, those depths would leave a lot untouched. 

Addition:  Reader-emailed evidence for the American black-jewish leftist alliance on Bloggingheads with Joshua Cohen  engaging in genuine moral concern and genuie academic apologetics.  Obama has chosen Rahm Emmanuel to likely be the White House Chief Of Staff, and of course from the Kentucky Fried Movie, Cleopatra Swartz.  Thank you readers…I think.

At this point, we’re probably helping Henri-Levy make his. Identity politics! 

I thought Henri-Levy had transcended them…oh wait…never mind.

See AlsoTim Kavanaugh At Reason: Every Man A Derrida

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Scott McLemee At Inside Higher Ed On Bernhard Henri-Levi: Darkness Becomes Him

Full piece here.

Henri-Levi (wikipedia), in the footsteps of De Tocqueville, toured the United States in 2006 to write his book American Vertigo.  As McLemee puts it, he penned a piece in ‘The Nation’ diagnosing the American left:

…as suffering from a sublime desolation. We were trapped in “a desert of sorts, a deafening silence, a cosmic ideological void.”

If only the American left were more like the European left, then Henri-Levy might have been more accurate!  There are many differing philosophical, social, and cultural traditions between (and within) the Anglo, American and French traditions that Levy simply overlooked or hasn’t bothered to understand.

Not quite De Tocqueville.

Yet, to his credit, he has the potential to point out problems and confront issues with moral courage:

“…for one of the two very worst forces in the world, by Lévy’s account, is anti-Americanism. The other is anti-Semitism.”

They could be quite serious.  And:

“…the future menaced by the prospect of barbarism. He is right to worry. But amid his soliloquies, he makes gestures of warning in the wrong direction.”

Barbarism seems like a threat to civilized society pretty much all the time, from within and without.  So where does McLemee suggest Henri-Levy is headed?

“…the legacy of antitotalitarian radicalism. He treats it almost like a family heirloom. But he avoids embracing that tradition’s hostility to capitalism.”

Okay.

Just a thoughtChristopher Hitchens used to be a rabid Marxist, becoming pretty pro-capitalist, and is still pretty rabidly anti-religious.

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